Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight

After the excesses of Christmas, a celebratory weekend in Seattle and then 3 weeks on holiday back home in Scotland I needed to lose some weight so I ordered this book with the hope it would inspire and encourage me with some new recipe ideas. The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight isn't a new cookbook (it was originally published in 2012) but from what I have read it has received a lot of praise so I was keen to give it a go.

For those of you unfamiliar with 'The Hairy Dieters' they are more commonly known as 'The Hairy Bikers' or Si King and Dave Myers. Over the years they have become national treasures in the UK, and have 12 cookbooks as well as several accompanying television series behind them. These guys know what they are doing and love food. Of course that love of food led to a large weight gain between the two so they decided it was time to watch their waistlines and work on losing some weight. The result was a combined loss of 6 stone (84lbs) and a cookbook dedicated to healthy recipes that will help everyone lose some weight while still loving food.

Now I realise that for a lot of you a review of a diet book may not be too interesting, however to me this really isn't a diet book. On first glance when I looked through the book, my initial thought was 'this is how I cook anyway'. It is simply good recipes where you use sensible choices to cut calories and control your portion size.

There are 10 chapters dedicated to recipes including 'One-Pan Dishes'; 'Grills and Roasts'; 'Pies'; 'Pasta & Rice' and me favourite, 'Fakeaways'. There is also a very useful chapter on Menus for your First Week to help you get started with you weight loss plan.

After bookmarking a lot of recipes I managed to narrow things down and tested 5 recipes.....

Tested Recipes:

Minestrone Soup
Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad
Chewy Cranberry & Apricot Bites

The first recipe to officially be put to the test was the Minestrone Soup which I made for lunch. The recipe was very straightforward and easy to follow. As you would expect from Minestrone there was a lot of chopping of vegetables but other than that it was super simple. I was a little worried that it might taste a little bland but it wasn't. It was really delicious and the giant pot that I made was gone in no time! I'll definitely make this again as it was so delicious, packed full of vegetables and only 115 calories per portion!

Next up and with Scott away I made Ben & I the Sweet and Sour Chicken since he loves pineapple and peppers, both of which feature in this dish! Growing up my Mum's Sweet and Sour Pork was my absolute favourite dish (to the point it was always my requested Birthday Meal) and I was happy to see that the recipe in the book is very similar to our own similar in fact that before I tried it I already knew it was going to be delicious and it was. Even better, Ben l-o-v-e-d it!! Seriously loved it, so I will be making this or my very similar version lots from now on! Another big success.

Now you wouldn't think when you are dieting that you would be allowed a deliciously rich and creamy Chicken Korma, but guess what? thanks to the Hairy Dieters you can and that's exactly what I made for a Friday night curry which went down a storm. Obviously a Korma is a lovely, creamy dish that is very mild so it was perfect for a family meal as it wasn't too spicy for Ben and you would never have guessed that it was a 'healthy' version as it was so delicious. The recipe was straightforward and easy to make and the end result was a very satisfying, creamy tasting curry. To be honest I can't imagine making a Chicken Korma any other way as it had all of the flavour but half of the calories!

The fourth recipe to be put to the test was the Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad which I made for Ben and I for lunch. As you would expect from a pasta salad it was very easy to make and although 100g of pasta for 4 servings doesn't sound like much it was lots when combined with all of the other ingredients. The dressing was simply low-fat mayo, white wine vinegar and water and I have to say it was very watery and therefore pretty bland. The overall salad was tasty but I had to add a lot of black pepper (and being me I also added some dried chilli flakes for an extra kick) to up the flavour. I will definitely make it again but I will be adding a few extra things to it to increase the flavour without adding extra calories (thinking lots of fresh herbs and perhaps some garlic).

The final recipe that I managed to try was the Chewy Cranberry and Apricot Bites for what looked like a perfect sweet treat to enjoy with a cup of tea. Unfortunately however they did not turn out. As I was mixing everything together it smelt delicious so I had high hopes but they cooked faster than the recipe stated so by the time I checked on them they were really brown on top and slightly burnt at the edges with some of the dried fruit on top burnt as well. I cut them into squares as suggested and left them til the morning to test them. The final result was just not great....not as chewy as I imagined and definitely with a slightly burnt flavour. I do like the idea of this recipe though and I think I might try them again but I would use a smaller dish to cook them in rather than what they suggested as they are just too thin and cooked too fast. As it was though this recipe was a definite fail.

As well as the above tested recipes I have also made the Harissa Chicken with Bulgar Wheat Salad which was really delicious but next time I will be cooking the chicken on the BBQ as I smoked out the kitchen with harissa fumes that were so strong and spicy they got you right in the throat and caused a giant coughing fit! I also felt the Bulgar Wheat Salad needed a little something extra so I did add in a little extra virgin olive oil but it was a very small amount and the dish served 6 so it wouldn't have made too much difference in the final calorie count. The meal was really delicious and definitely one to be repeated.

I have also been enjoying the Toasted Crumpets and Warm Spiced Berries with Yogurt & Honey for a lovely breakfast that you wouldn't think you would be allowed but you are!

There are so many recipes in this book that I love the look and sound of that as well as all of the above recipes which I plan to remake, I bookmarked the following recipes to try as well.....

Baked Haddock, Spinach and Egg Pots
Golden Vegetable Soup
Roasted Cod with Parma Ham and Peppers
Spanish-Style Chicken Bake
Easy Crispy Chicken
Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip
Quick Cod and Prawn Gratin
Spicy Bean and Vegetable Stew
Gorgeous Fish Stew with Garlic Croutons
Paprika Chicken
Chilli Salad Bowls
Chicken Jalfrezi
Coconut Prawn Curry
Very Easy Thai Chicken and Coconut Curry
Chilli Lemon Tuna and Broccoli Spaghetti
Southern-Style Jambalaya
Moist Carrot & Sultana Cake

Although this is labeled a diet book, to me it really isn't. The recipes are all so flavourful and you really don't feel for a minute that you are missing out on anything. In my opinion it's just a fantastic cookbook full of recipes that will appeal to everyone in your family and recipes that you will want to make over and over again. All of the recipes that I tested were very straightforward to follow and simple to make and they are all accompanied by beautiful photographs.

Specialty Ingredients?
Since this is a UK book there are a couple of things that I can't get here in Canada such as low-fat Creme Fraiche. Although I didn't make any of the recipes that required that ingredient, if I did I would just substitute low-fat sour cream instead so it's not a total disaster! Other than that though pretty much all of the ingredients are things you can get easily from your local supermarket and if you live in the UK then you will have no issues at all.

Learn anything new?
Yes! Dieting doesn't have to be horrendous! It really is just about using your common sense and by making sensible choices and watching your portion size. I never considered I would be able to enjoy crumpets for breakfast while trying to lose weight but you can – just don't slather them with tons of butter!!

I honestly can't say enough how much I love this book and although I have said it before I'm going to say it again – this is not a diet book!! It's jam-packed full of wonderful, tasty recipes and with some sensible tweaking of ingredients you can enjoy all of your favourite dishes while still trying to lose some weight. If you don't have this book go out and buy it now!

The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight 100% gets the Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops Stamp of Approval!

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